Boys and Girls Clubs scholarship program formed

Marquette University is spearheading an unprecedented partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, pledging full-tuition scholarships to winners of the group’s “Youth of the Year” competition.

Marquette is the first university in the nation to form such an agreement with the Boys and Girls Clubs, said Jeff Snell, special adviser to University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild.

Three of these scholarships will be available for the Fall 2010 semester, but the university hopes to increase to 10 scholarships given out for every incoming class, Snell said.

The university is working to establish a $40 million endowment to support the scholarships, he said.

The Youth of the Year award is given out yearly on the local, state, regional and national level based on qualities like character, leadership, service and academics, Snell said.

A youth who wins the competition at any of those levels is eligible for the scholarship, he said, provided he or she meets Marquette’s criteria for admission.

“Based on our research, that shouldn’t be a problem,” Snell said. “Through the youth of the year program, they’re looking for the same things Marquette is.”

The partnership was suggested in the summer of 2007, when Wild asked the University Leadership Committee to review the university’s enrollment strategy to give special attention to increasing access to higher education for disadvantaged youth.

Snell proposed offering the scholarships, largely because he was involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Milwaukee for eight years.

“I saw lots of kids with great potential, but it was undeveloped and untapped,” he said.

After the idea to offer scholarships was drafted, Snell approached the Boys and Girls Clubs of America with the offer, said Karen MacDonald, Vice President of Programs and Youth Development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

“He came to us with this idea, and of course we were really excited about the opportunity,” Macdonald said. “To have a university such as Marquette come forward is very special.”

Through the Urban Scholars Program, Marquette already offers 10 full-tuition scholarships to disadvantaged youth from several urban schools in the Milwaukee area or Chicago. Two of those scholarships are specifically designated for members of Milwaukee’s Boys and Girls Clubs.

Marquette has had an extensive relationship with the local organization through volunteer work, programming help and other assistance, said Jacqueline Zeledon, communication manager for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

“We’re glad that our relationship helped open the doors to the national scholarship program,” she said. “And we’re happy that Marquette will be able to help more club members obtain their education and career goals.”

MacDonald said she was hopeful other Jesuit universities might offer similar support soon.

“The thinking is that this program would serve as a model for other Jesuit universities,” she said.

Snell agreed that the next goal was to expand the scholarship program to other schools.

“The pressing need now is to scale this up nationally, including private and public schools,” he said. “We need as many schools as possible that want to reach these kinds of students.”